As we do every January, Bachtrack brings you the year in statistics: the world of classical music, that is to say, of course, the world of classical music as reflected by the 33,578 concerts, opera and dance performances in our database for 2018. You can pore over our full infographic here, but here are some of the things that caught our eye:

Bernstein’s blockbusting birthday

2018 was Leonard Bernstein’s centenary, celebrated across the globe with such enthusiasm that Lenny became the third most performed composer (after the regular holders of the nos, 1 and 2 slots, Beethoven and Mozart). We asked Paul Epstein, Senior Vice President at the Bernstein Foundation, what he had to say about this extraordinary achievement:

“Our goal was to take Leonard Bernstein’s music to the next generation … and for more young people to know about him. We also hoped that Lenny’s music would be looked at altogether, to make a new assessment of what his music was worth, what it was about, and we believed that that would all work to Lenny’s credit – and in fact it did. We feel we did right by Lenny.”

Leonard Bernstein © William Gotlieb
© William Gotlieb

The enormous rise of Bernstein on Bachtrack was partly due to the Foundation assiduously adding all the Bernstein events they knew about to Bachtrack’s event listings, but many more were added from outside their ambit. To honour their father’s memory, the Bernstein family were extraordinarily generous with their time, travelling widely to cover many of the special events put on in his honour. On one day alone, November 24th, we met Bernstein’s daughters Nina and Jamie in Berlin when reviewing Candide at Komische Oper, while another reviewer was at Chichester Cathedral for the Chichester Psalms where they met Bernstein’s son Alexander. Four of the top five most performed works were by Bernstein, with his Symphonic Dances from West Side Story pegging the coveted number one slot. Candide was the 11th most performed opera/operetta.

Women composers: improving, from a low base

Women in music continue to catch our attention. In the 2,891 contemporary orchestral works played last year and input to our database, just 12.8% were written by them versus 87.2% by men, with a great disparity according to different countries. In Germany and France, the figure is shockingly low at 5%, in sharp contrast to Sweden, where 37% of their contemporary work is by women (a look at the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra’s season highlights why). The figures for the USA and UK are 16 and 17% – the US figure would have been lower still but for a tweet at the start of 2018 by Alex Ross, which shamed the Philadelphia Orchestra into adding works by women to their 2018-19 season.

 

Women composers from the past have started to be programmed more. We have looked at the top 30 composers over a 5 year period: 26 are now ranked within the top 400 composers, twice the number of 5 years ago.

Sadly there is very little orchestral music from the earlier composers, many of whom were restricted in what they were able to get performed and what they could publish, being totally in the hands of their male relatives. Even Felix Mendelssohn, so close to his sister Fanny, said to his mother in a letter as she pleaded Fanny’s case for publication: “I regard publishing as something serious… and believe one should do it only if one is willing to appear and remain an author for one’s life. That means a series of works, one after the other…Fanny, is too much a Frau, as is proper, raises Sebastian and cares for her home…Allowing her music to appear in print would just stir her up in that...” He finished with a directive not to tell Fanny what he had said, giving her no right of reply.(1) 

aroundtheworldbox © Bachtrack
© Bachtrack
We asked leading composer Sally Beamish for her thoughts:

“I think it is really important to find female composers from the past. When I was a child I knew about Clara Schumann, and I decided she was going to be my kind-of patron saint, because she was the only woman I had ever heard of that wrote music. The lack of role models just contributes to making girls feel that this isn’t something they could do, so we just have to work really, really hard to change that perception, not just for the world at large but for women musicians to believe in themselves.”

Orchestras and conductors: versatility is the watchword

The top slot in the list of busiest orchestras goes for the first time to the United Kingdom’s Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. We asked RPO Managing Director James Williams to what he attributed this:

“We focus on inclusive and versatile programming in the seven Principal Residencies we serve around the UK. We are delighted to be recognised as one of the busiest orchestras in the world. Some 305,000 people experienced the RPO live during its 2017/18 season, performing 143 concerts in the UK in addition to 35 concerts abroad.” 

Of the concert conductors, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla got into the top 50 conductors despite taking four months off for maternity leave. Goodness knows how many performances she will be able to clock up in 2019! A newcomer to the conductor list is Karina Canellakis, an American of Greek and Russian origin. She takes up the baton at the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic in September and as winner of the Critics' Circle Emerging Talent award is definitely one to watch. 

The direction of opera

Looking at the opera statistics, it’s great to see that the two directors with the most performances of their productions being shown in 2018 are Barrie Kosky and Sir David McVicar. You can read more of Kosky’s thoughts on opera in our pair of recent interviews. Meanwhile the two singers with the most performances in 2018 were Lisette Oropesa and Erwin Schrott. As to the list of most performed operas, it will come as no surprise that the combination of Verdi, Puccini and Mozart continues to make up a third of all performances – as it has for every year since our records began.

You can see the full infographic here.


(1) Source: Sounds and Sweet Airs: The Forgotten Women of Classical Music by Anna Beer, published Oneworld, 2016.